October 4th 2020 08.42 a.m. the dreaded call came. The doctor at the ICU where my dad had been battling a life-threatening secondary infection that happens if you are in ICU for over a week, informed me matter of fact that my dad (81) had passed away at 08.30 a.m. that morning. In wee hours earlier that day we had a conversation with another doctor who had prepared us for the worst that is likely in matter of hours or days. Felt numb, bizarre and confused. There were no tears as if sadness had decided to take another invisible form and stay inside. went through the motions as there were multiple formalities to be completed, arrangements to be made, relatives to be informed etc. the next morning had to pick him up to take him for his last service before he would be taken for burial. just broke down inconsolably seeing him motionless – crying out loud – dad, dad please come back. and in the entire 45-minute journey was fervently praying for him to just get out of the coffin like it happens on the big screen. alas, no miracles and the world through the car windows was going about usually, while mine and of my family had just irreversibly lost a part of it forever.
Even while he was in the ICU battling for his life my two brothers and I faced decisions we were never prepared for. ‘When is it that we give up the fight to save his life? At what point do we say enough of the pain we are putting him through and let him go peacefully’. The doctors treating him were divided (since we knew some of them they could speak to us candidly) and so were our immediate family. The three of us decided to fight to save his life to the extent we can, and to the extent modern medicine allows. But there were moments of doubt as we knew he was going through immense pain internally with all the tubes and catheter intruding into his body 24×7.
The abnormal times we live in made everything more difficult and if I were to ask God (know someone exists) it would be – why did you choose this time to take him back. I would have preferred him to go at our family home surrounded by his entire extended family and peacefully. Not in a hospital bed. Alas we don’t get to make that choice.
The days that followed have been blurry and mixed. I felt like running away to a corner with just my close family. Felt no energy or inclination to speak to anyone about what had happened. Grief is very private, personal. All of us express and go through it very differently. I have told many of my close friends to stay strong when they have had bereavement in their family. Ironically was wondering whether staying strong is really worth, when it hit me hard. Is it not crying and just moving on with your life with the sadness buried deep inside, or encased so deep it never sprouts out? Or just break, cry loud. there were nights could not sleep and he did occasionally appear in my dreams rudely waking me up in the wee hours. After couple of days, started taking calls, mailing and even a pre-committed engagement in the first week after that fateful day, where had to interact with a global audience as part of a recent global board role had taken up.
My life is limping back to normal and know soon it will consume me. But deep inside some things have changed forever. Know even more up close how brittle life is first hand. Know now what it means to lose someone in your family and the void it creates. Know that priorities got to change a bit as much as going into a shell is not an option or in my character. The wounds inflicted by the memories and the void will fester. And they are good. They are not meant to be treated or healed. They are there to tell us the snowy flake that life really is.
Sometimes I stare into a vaccum and I let it be, making no effort to get out of that moment. Sometimes a photo or a conversation brings tears. Make no effort to stop, letting it flow. But don’t want anyone around except the people closest to me in those moments. Out of it, don’t want anyone to know and think something has gone amiss in my life. It’s like the life that was moving outside the car windows when was taking him for the service. The world/life keeps moving – it’s you alone or your family that has had that wheel broken. If I smile or laugh, I don’t want to feel guilty. It’s just that there is a wee tiny tinge of sorrow to it that none can decipher, except those whom you are closest to. Grief is truly personal and private. And I need to now get used to not having someone I could call “DAD” anymore.